We are excited to announce that Pole Vaulter Heather Hamilton is the first athlete to join Altis
Canada. Speaking on the move, Head Coach Laurier Primeau said: “In line with the mandate of Altis, performance is but one criterion by which we assess potential athletes. In welcoming Heather, we know that we are getting one of the country’s best vaulters; but equally importantly we are getting an excellent person who understands that giving back to community, as well as contributing to the positive culture as both an athlete and an ambassador of the Altis program are things which hold high value.”
We spoke to Heather to find out more…
Heather, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your move. Let’s start by talking a little about your time last year in Phoenix … how long were you there for, and what were your aims?
Last year my aim was to spend as much time as possible in Phoenix, while still meeting my work requirements in Canada. I had a lot of success with the program and really felt at home there. I ended up spending four weeks in the fall and planned to be there for over two months in the spring, however a pole break during training and subsequent injury forced me to go back home for a while.
Tell us about the group atmosphere at Altis last year in Phoenix? What was it like?
Altis is comprised of some pretty amazing people. It’s an atmosphere that you have to experience for yourself. Everyone is there to work hard and get the job done while pushing egos aside. It’s the most motivating and supportive training environment I’ve experienced, with the best sense of a team of coaches, therapists and athletes. Each time I’ve gone to Phoenix over the last two years, I’ve witnessed Altis grow and change for the better, so it’s been pretty exciting.
Do you train better in a group or on your own?
I am a social person, so I tend to train better in a group. There are certain occasions where a solo training session is necessary, but I love to be around other people that push me to be better and vice versa. Last year was difficult for me as I spent most of the year training by myself. I had some great Toronto based coaches helping me with technical sessions, but four out of six practices per week were completely on my own. In the middle of a Canadian winter, my motivation was truly tested! Training partners and coaches are a necessary support system that foster high performance, and that’s what Altis provides.
So last year, you chose to base yourself in Toronto, and spend short camps in AZ – why the move now out to Vancouver?
Toronto is my home, so it was the most familiar base for me. I work for the Royal Bank of Canada in an amazing athlete sponsorship program, so I was determined to make my training work there. However, I ended up isolating myself and feeling like a bit of a nomad with all the different training locations and travel back and forth. There was no real consistency, and that is a huge component of success. The setup in Vancouver will provide me with a support system of coaches, therapists and training partners that I’ve only ever experienced before in Phoenix. It was a no brainer for me to make the move to the west coast.
Have you had much of an opportunity to talk with Altis Canada Head Coach Laurier Primeau?
Laurier and I have chatted quite a bit over the last couple weeks. I had heard great things about him as a coach and right away we were on the same page in terms of goals, values, training perspective. He recognized that I value the programming I get from Dan Pfaff and he coaches under the same philosophy and principals. He and Rob Pike are offering the missing link I’ve been looking for (consistent coaching under my current program), so I’m excited to work with both of them and be a part of Altis Canada. Great people are what create success and right from our first conversation I got positive vibes!
What do you think about Altis Canada concept?
I think it’s a brilliant concept since we have nothing like it in Canada so far. The integrative approach to training, therapy, and recovery is so beneficial for elite athletes. Track side therapy from Gerry Ramogida and access to top facilities and coaching staff is a huge advantage that I’m looking forward to having access to. The ability to work and train in my home country and still be able to travel south to Phoenix for warm weather camps is the ideal situation. The goal is to create a seamless and consistent environment in Vancouver and Phoenix, so I’m so thankful it all came together in time for the upcoming season!
“Track side therapy from Gerry Ramogida and access to top facilities and coaching staff is a huge advantage that I’m looking forward to having access to.”
Many athletes have difficulty moving from comfortable confines – even when they admit that they are not ideal for training. What has enabled you to make a move to what is admittedly a little bit of an unknown situation?
One unsuccessful year can be the motivation to make necessary adjustments. I knew I wasn’t maximizing my potential with my setup last year, and there is a pretty short window of opportunity to pursue athletics. I made a commitment to myself that I’d do everything I could to get myself in the best environment that works for me. The only thing stopping me from moving to Phoenix was the inability to work to support myself there. However, with Altis Canada, I was able to get transferred to work in BC, eliminating anything holding me back. Anything worth doing should make you feel slightly uncomfortable – it’s what allows you to grow and change for the better, so I feel like this is the right move for me. I have the unique experience of training at the Altis from its initial formation, so I have a better idea of what I’m getting into.
What gives you the confidence that this will work?
The fact that I trust the people I’m working with, and there will be constant communication with one program director. I found a program that works for me, now it’s time to train in the right environment with the right people. I am creating a home base with a support system, and that’s what I need at this point in my career.
What are you most looking forward to?
So many things! I’m really excited to move to Vancouver, and have a bit of a fresh start. I’m looking forward to working with Laurier, Rob and Gerry and still be able to train with my Altis family in the US. I’m ready to get the ball rolling and become a better pole vaulter!
Is there anything you’re dreading?!
Nothing at all. Some might dread a 40 hour drive across the country, but I’m excited for a road trip and the start of a new adventure.
Last question – what is your advice to athletes considering the move to Altis?
Do your research and identify what you need in a training environment. If you are truly committed to success, you will do everything in your power to make the sometimes risky decisions. Speaking to the coaches and understanding the philosophy of Altis will determine if it’s the right fit. But most of all, go with your gut – it never lies.
Heather Hamilton is on Twitter – you can follow her here.